Quality – The Men-Tei Approach

There’s a Japanese noodle cafe on Hereford Street in Boston called Men-Tei. It’s near the Prudential Center, between Boylston Street and Newbury Street (a good location), but this is not a restaurant review. The reason for the post is to explain the very essence of “quality”. Maybe we can call it the Men-Tei approach

So what is so special about Men-Tei? Well, let’s start by taking a look at what it DOESN’T do …

It doesn’t have a liquor license, so you can only choose from a small selection of teas (which they don’t offer you, you have to ask – and they don’t do refills) or you could take a soft drink from the chiller in the corner. When you arrive you are  presented with a polystyrene cup of chilled tap water, which they will refill. The polystyrene cups are taken from a cardboard box on the floor of the cafe. The servers wear whatever they want, which is generally a hoodie, trainers and usually a baseball cap. They tend not to make small talk. The tables are small, close together, no frills, no table cloths, nothing like that. Cutlery consists of disposable chop-sticks or a porcelain spoon (you can use both if you want) but no forks. The dish that your food is served in is likely to be chipped. They only accept cash. The second you consume your last mouthful of food, your bill will be placed on the table in front of you. You never need to ask for it. In fact you would not have time to ask for it. The menu is not extensive and there are no desserts. They don’t take reservations and if there are no tables free you have to wait on the street

It is pretty close to being perfect in its execution of the concept of quality. It is so beautiful that I recommend every quality professional to pay it a visit. It is most definitely a “how to” guide to quality. The Men-Tei has designed the business model precisely and customer satisfaction is very much at its core. It works, and this is how

The cafe specialises in dishing up large plates of tasty, cheap noodle and rice dishes in a no-frills environment. It does not pretend to be anything other than that. That is how they make their money and, because they have chosen affordability over luxury (a clear strategic decision), margins per serving will not be very large, and they only have about 8 tables. So think about that for a moment.  If this business model is to work, turnaround time as absolutely critical. That’s why wait times on food are under 5 minutes, and wait times on the bill are under 5 seconds. The last thing they need is for a couple of diners to tie down a table for an extra half hour sipping tea – that’s why drinks don’t figure in the equation. That’s why they can do without the hassle and added expense of washing glasses and changing table cloths. That’s why you never have to ask for your bill. There is a very clear but unwritten deal going on between the establishment and the diner which goes something like “I’ll give you a large plate of cheap, tasty and fast  food on the understanding that you eat up, pay up and make way”. If they have a mission statement, that’s probably it. And if it is, they certainly walk the talk

So why is it “quality”?  – Because it does exactly what it claims

How can I say that they care about customer satisfaction? Because they do not fail to deliver

Even when the temperature on the street is below freezing, when you’ve paid your bill and walked outside, there’s likely to be a small queue of people outside prepared to suffer the cold for the dining experience. It’s no place for an anniversary dinner, but it is exactly the place for a quality management study tour

I’d post a link to their website, but they don’t have one


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